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Despite the single biggest jump in Santa Barbara County’s daily COVID-19 cases last week ― 50 last Friday ― local health officials say that the county is handling new cases well enough that it may open additional businesses later this week.
“We do have to strike a balance between opening these industries back up, letting kids go to summer day camps, planning for school openings for the new school year, and making sure we are not experiencing an unmanageable surge in new cases with severe illness and death,” Public Health Officer Dr. Henning Ansorg said on Monday.
“We did see the effect the Memorial Day openings had on our COVID cases,” Ansorg continued, “and there is a slight increase in hospitalization numbers; however, it has been manageable.”
Governor Gavin Newsom earlier announced that the state is providing guidance for fully reopening hotels, gyms and fitness centers, bars and wineries that don’t serve food, indoor museums and zoos, and campgrounds.
Ansorg said that members of the county Public Health Department are meeting Wednesday to “thoroughly review COVID data,” and as long as the data is still meeting epidemiological requirements he will allow those sectors to open in Santa Barbara County.
“Providing we are still in compliance with the variance requirements, we plan to issue a new health officer order this Wednesday, amending the stay-at-home order and allowing for more business sectors to open,” he said.
Nail salons, tattoo parlors, body waxing, indoor playgrounds, live theaters and movie theaters, in-person higher education classes, nightclubs, festivals, and theme parks are all still closed by the state.
Today, the county reported nine new cases. Though hospitalizations are still considered manageable by Ansorg, Santa Barbara is nearing its local peak with 43 people in hospital and nine in intensive care units.
Two of the new cases reported Monday live in Santa Barbara; one person lives in Goleta; one person lives in Lompoc; four people live in Santa Maria; and one person lives in the unincorporated areas of Sisquoc, Casmalia, Garey, New Cuyama, and Guadalupe.
The local Black Lives Matter and related protests that have erupted all over the county in the past two weeks have been of concern to some who fear the crowds and lack of social distancing will prompt the virus to spread, forcing reopening efforts to halt ― or even go backward. After keeping steady two weeks after Memorial Day, though, health officials made it clear they were not too worried.
“We were there for about four hours, and even though I’m guesstimating there were about 2,000 people, I kept looking over the crowd from different angles and everyone, I mean everyone, was wearing face coverings,” said Public Health Director Van Do-Reynoso about the Sunday protest she attended with her daughter. “I’m very optimistic we will not see a huge impact from the protests.”
Congregate care facilities, like nursing homes, were also addressed Monday. One of the criteria needed for the county to continue reopening businesses is to protect vulnerable populations, like those living in skilled nursing facilities.
She said the Public Health Department is working with the county’s nursing homes to ensure there is a plan in place to monitor residents for COVID-19. Just one resident testing positive is considered an outbreak by the state because of the congregate care setting.
“By the end of June, all 14 of our local skilled nursing facilities will complete baseline COVID testing for their residents and their staff,” Do-Reynoso said, “This means roughly 1,000 residents and approximately 2,000 staff will be tested.”
She said within the next few days, the public health website will have a list of the local nursing homes that have or currently are experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak.